Realtor Finds New Leads Territory in Search-Engine Bidding

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Realtor Seligman & Associates increased traffic to five affiliate Web sites 25 percent by bidding on keywords for better search engine placement.

Seligman, Southfield, MI, set up an account with search engine and bid on keywords in hopes of ranking in the top three for search results of words relevant to its sites. By ranking at least third in these searches, Seligman's Web sites are featured and sponsored by GoTo's affiliate search engines, including Lycos, Hotbot and America Online.

The per-click bidding system varies by keyword and changes by the hour. For instance, one keyword may cost 10 cents per click while another could cost $1.60.

Seligman and interactive marketing firm 360i, Atlanta, also set up "doorway pages" through the GoTo account that allow them to design HTML pages that are created for specific keyword phrases, said Michael Dobbs, senior search engine account manager at 360i.

"We're able to submit the page in various indexes of these search engines in hopes that their relevancy program will decide that that page will be on the top 30, which is generally our goal with all of our clients," Dobbs said.

Seligman Webmaster Mary Stuart said that Seligman aimed to rank higher in search engines to keep up with competitors online.

"Our competition isn't our local apartment community or another commercial leasing company," she said. "It's your newspapers or realty Web sites that people use when they are moving, and to get [the Seligman] sites up there with those takes a lot of time, planning, keyword selection and monitoring, because algorithms or a search engine change constantly."

Stuart also said the affiliate sites turned the traffic into qualified leads. An average of 18 percent of the traffic resulted in leads, and nearly 12 percent of those leads, on average, were converted into rentals or leases, she said. Further, Stuart said people who visit the sites average 6.5 minutes to 10.5 minutes per visit.

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